Monthly Archives :
September 2016
1024 778 Andy McFarland

Measuring Your House For Renovation – Step 1

Details On How To Make An As-Built Home Survey- Step 1

One of the tough things about owning an As-Built measuring company is that almost nobody knows what As-Built measuring is!  So I am constantly trying to explain to friends, family and new people that I meet what it is that we do.  But… one of the cool things about owning an As-Built measuring company is that occasionally these same friends and family actually need our services when they are planning a remodel, and their architect asks them for As-Built plans.   So that gives me a chance to show them what we do, and as a pleasant side effect, to feel good about the fact that I have learned a skill which can sometimes be of use to others.

I had just such an opportunity come up last month when I was on a vacation with my family on the East Coast.  We stayed several days with a high school friend and his family, and before we came out he told me that they were planning to remodel a bathroom in their house in Connecticut.  Their interior designer needed an As-Built drawing of the area, but they didn’t have any, and she was going to charge them extra to create them herself since it was over 100 miles away from her office.  I was only too happy to pack a few extra tools in my suitcase so that I could help my friend (and it was the least I could do for a family that was hosting us for almost a week!)

The subject house – nice yard huh?

Admittedly I was a little rusty – I’ve personally measured over a thousand buildings but probably less than 10 in the last 3-4 years.  Plus, I didn’t bring the fancy equipment that our professional surveyors would have with them on a paid project.  So I went “old school” with a few basic tools and some tried and true techniques that I first started using in 2002.  The final plans, if I do say so myself, came out perfectly.  Here’s how I did it:

Every As-Built surveying project has 3 basic parts:

  1. Preparation
  2. Measuring
  3. Drafting

With this article I will talk about #1:  Preparation.  As with most tasks, great preparation is the key to great execution.  Here are a few things to think about when getting ready to measure a house:

  1. Get the right tools. You will need a clipboard, paper (graph paper is best), writing utensils (I suggest mechanical pencil, erasable pen, and multi-color pen – more on that below), and measuring device.  Tape measure will work just fine, but if you plan to do this somewhat frequently, invest a couple hundred dollars in a laser measuring device.


Basic surveying toolkit – laser and toolbelt optional

  1. Figure out your Notation System. You want to be able to read your measurements right?  A little bit of planning here will go a long way in Step 3 – Drafting.  You don’t necessarily need all these things just to measure one house, but they sure will help in the long run.  Here’s a few tips:
    • For Units, use inch/decimal or feet/decimal.  Easier to write and to type into a CAD program. I like inch/decimal, and I round to the nearest tenth of an inch, so for example I would write a measurement of 10’-65/8 as 126.6
    • If some of your numbers look similar, alter them so you can tell them apart. When I am working fast, for example, my “0” and “6” can look the same, so I always make a diagonal slash through the “0” so it never gets mixed up.
    • Write all of the numbers and labels in the same orientation. Do not rotate the clipboard while measuring.
    • Figure out which writing utensils you want to use, and for what. If necessary you can do everything in pencil, but that makes it tougher to see what’s what when you are trying to draft it.  I use pencil for all measurements, erasable blue pen for all structural features (walls, windows, doors etc…), and multi-colored pen for built-ins and other features (black for cabinetry, red for electrical, green for ceiling elements).
  2. Confirm scope of work. Confirm what you need to show on the final plans.  Which areas of the structure, which items to include, which plans (Floor Plans, Elevations, Electrical, etc..)
  3. Do a walkthrough. Prior to sketching or measuring anything, walk through the entire building, inside and out, to get a sense for the configuration/layout, structural elements, areas of focus, etc… This will help greatly with the final step, which is to…
  4. Plan your measuring Strategy. How do you plan to “attack” the measurements.  This includes questions like:
    • Where will you start? How will you proceed through the building?
    • Which way will you orient the sketches?
    • How many sheets will you need? Are you going to fit everything onto 1 sheet or break it up into multiple to allow for more space?
    • Are there any areas of concern such as tricky wall angles, complex features, hard to reach spaces? How will you measure these items?

With your Preparation completed, you should be in good shape to start Step 2 – Measuring the house.  In my next article a week from now, I’ll run through some helpful tips for measuring a house as accurately and efficiently as possible using pad and paper.

Thanks for reading!  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

1024 694 Andy McFarland

Starting the day off right – the Bustation Declaration!

How We Get Fired Up To Make A Fantastic As-Built Survey For You


We have always liked to think of ourselves as a fun company.  Whether it’s company parties and events, office jokes and pranks, or just the lively discussions and laughter that you hear on a daily basis, it’s clear that the people at PPM have a good time at work – for the most part.  But as we have grown to 20+ people, we’ve found it hard to keep that same spirit and positive energy – particularly in the mornings.  See for yourself with this “before” photo of Alyson:

Before. Lethargic and low energy. Not ready to Bust.

One of our favorite words here at PPM is “Busting”. When you “Bust”, it means you are giving your full focus and energy towards whatever you are doing, and you’re in a good mood while you do it. A typical conversation with one of our As-Built Surveyors might go something like this:

Me: “How did that project go today?”

Surveyor: “It was great.  Came out perfectly.  I totally busted it.”

Me:  “Awesome.  Nice busting.”

In fact, we like this word so much that we made it our very first Core Value


It’s fairly easy to Bust in the field – you get to the jobsite early, you have a finite amount of work to get done, and besides measuring buildings is FUN! But in the office it’s a little harder to get fired up sometimes.  It was in response to this problem that the Bustation Declaration was invented at PPM.


  • At 8:45AM sharp, each morning, the entire staff at PPM stands up and gathers together (either indoors or outdoors)
  • The Leader will choose a 3-5 minute activity to get people engaged (we’ve had stretching, exercises, dances, word games – “would you rather” is a favorite).  The purpose here is to bring up the energy level and get people smiling.
  • Announcements are made (anything interesting that happened to anyone last night/this morning, any events happening at office today, etc…)
  • 3-5 people will speak up and make their BUSTATION DECLARATION!  This is where you DECLARE how you are going to BUST that day.  What are you going to get done?  What are you excited about?  What is motivating you to BUST today?  (usually something personal like a fun event happening that night or weekend)
  • A high energy closing.  We like the slow clap, wave, sports cheer, high five line, or something along those lines.
  • When the day is over and people are heading home, those that have successfully Busted that day and reached their goals can ring the “Li-BUST-y Bell” on their way out, which is basically just a blue cowbell.  Everyone else stops what they are doing and Cheers!

After.  Look at Alyson now!  High energy Busting!

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Anyone else do something similar at their company?